Hunting, livestock main topics of Duluth wolf conference

Female wolf
This female wolf is a member of the well-known "black pack," and was trotting through the autumn woods near Moose Lake outside Ely, Minn.
Steve Foss for MPR, file

With a proposed wolf hunting season nearing approval in the Minnesota Legislature, state wildlife managers and others are meeting in Duluth for an annual conference on wolves in the Great Lakes region.

The two main issues being discussed at the Midwest Wolf Stewards Conference are hunting and the depredation of livestock by wolves.

Since the wolf was removed from the Endangered Species list in January, Minnesota has certified nearly 80 trappers to kill problem wolves that prey on animals.

U.S. Department of Agriculture wildlife biologist John Hart said a wolf hunt likely won't have much impact on the number of wolves that prey on livestock. He said most depredation occurs in the summer, while a hunt would take place in the fall and winter.

"As the public has become more engaged in wolf management and a wolf season in the western Great Lakes, they really need to keep in mind that a wolf harvest does not equal wolf depredation management," Hart said.

But Hart does think a hunting season, combined with landowners who are now allowed to kill some problem wolves, could shrink the wolf population in central Minnesota.

Both the Minnesota House and Senate have approved bills to have the wolf and deer hunting seasons coincide in the fall. The state Department of Natural Resources had proposed to start the wolf season later in the year, but large carnivore specialist Dan Stark says the agency can work with an earlier start.

"In a lot of places wolves are hunted incidental to other big game hunting and success rates are very low," Stark said.

There are about 3,000 wolves in Minnesota. The DNR has proposed an initial hunting quota of 400.

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